Father taught his teenage son how to repair the car

Car Battery and Engine Maintenance 101

By the Mercury Team

Your car’s battery and engine are the heart and soul of your vehicle, and keeping them in top condition not only extends the life of your car, but also ensures a safe, efficient driving experience. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or new to car ownership, these automotive maintenance tips will help you keep up with your vehicle’s needs.

Car Battery Maintenance

Maintaining your car battery ensures reliable vehicle performance and helps prevent unexpected breakdowns. Here are some essential tips to help you keep your battery in top shape:

Drive the Car Regularly

One of the simplest ways to maintain your car battery is to drive it every few days. Regular driving helps keep the battery charged and prevents the battery fluid from evaporating. Short trips are less effective, so consider longer drives when possible to ensure the battery gets a full charge.

Avoid Draining the Battery

It’s essential to turn off all lights and electronics when the engine is off. Leaving headlights, interior lights, or other electronic accessories on can drain the battery quickly. Also, be mindful of accessories that draw power from the battery, such as phone chargers and GPS devices. Even small drains can add up over time, especially if you don’t drive your car frequently.

Check the Battery

Regularly checking the health of your battery can prevent unexpected failures. You can use a battery tester to measure the voltage and overall health of the battery. Alternatively, have a professional at a vehicle repair shop test it during routine maintenance. For non-sealed batteries, it’s also important to check the electrolyte levels periodically. If the levels are low, add distilled water to ensure proper function.

Clean the Battery

Cleaning your car battery will help it operate efficiently and reliably. Over time, dirt, grime, and corrosion can build up on the battery terminals, which can affect the performance. Regularly clean the battery terminals using a mixture of baking soda and water to neutralize any acid and remove corrosion. Make sure to wear gloves and eye protection while cleaning to avoid contact with battery acid.

When to Replace a Car Battery

Even with the best maintenance, car batteries don’t last forever. Here are some signs that it might be time to replace your car battery:

  • Age of the battery: Car batteries typically last between three to five years. If your battery is nearing or has surpassed this age range, it’s a good idea to start considering a replacement, even if it seems to be working fine.
  • Slow engine crank: If you notice that your engine is cranking more slowly than usual when you start your car, it could be a sign that your battery is losing its charge.
  • Dashboard warning light: Most modern cars have a dashboard warning light that indicates issues with the battery or charging system. If this light comes on, it’s a good idea to have your battery tested as soon as possible.
  • Swollen battery case: If the battery case looks swollen or bloated, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. This can be caused by excessive heat and indicates that the battery is nearing the end of its life.
  • Frequent jump starts: If you need to jump-start your car frequently, your battery may not hold a charge well, and you should consider getting a new battery.
  • Low battery fluid level: It’s important to regularly check the fluid level of non-sealed batteries. If the fluid level is consistently low, it might indicate that the battery is overheating and needs a replacement.

Car Engine Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your car’s engine is essential to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Here are some tips to keep your engine performing at its best:

Car Oil Change

Regular oil changes are crucial for maintaining your car engine’s health. Follow the recommendations in your vehicle’s manual, taking into account the type of oil used and the climate you drive in. Using the correct oil and changing it at the appropriate intervals ensures proper lubrication, reduces engine wear, and helps keep your engine running smoothly.

To keep track of your oil’s condition between changes, it’s important to know how to check engine oil. First, ensure your car is on a level surface and the engine is cool. Locate the oil dipstick, pull it out, and wipe it clean. Reinsert it fully, then remove it again to check the oil level. The oil should be within the marked range on the dipstick. If it’s low, top it off with the recommended oil type for your vehicle.

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs play a key role in your engine’s performance. How long do spark plugs last? Replace them according to the intervals specified in your manual or sooner if you notice buildup that affects performance. Worn or dirty spark plugs can lead to poor fuel economy, engine misfires, and difficulty starting your car.

Air Filter

The air filter is essential for keeping dirt and debris out of your engine. Replace your air filter every 20,000–30,000 miles or as recommended in your vehicle’s manual. A clean filter ensures optimal airflow to the engine, improving fuel efficiency and engine performance.

Check Car Fluids

Regularly checking and flushing various engine fluids helps prevent corrosion and overheating. Key fluids to monitor include:

  • Coolant: What does coolant do? It helps maintain the ideal engine temperature.
  • Transmission fluid: This ensures smooth shifting and reduces wear on transmission components.
  • Power steering fluid: This aids in easy steering and prevents damage to the power steering system.
  • Brake fluid: This type of hydraulic fluid transfers force into pressure, helping amplify the braking force applied by the driver.

Please read our blog, “Quick Tips for Checking Vehicle Fluids,” to learn how to check power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid, and more.

Drive Belts

What is a drive belt? Drive belts power various engine components, such as the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning. Check them regularly for signs of wear, such as squealing, overheating, or poor battery charging. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to replace the belts. Well-maintained drive belts ensure that your engine’s accessories operate efficiently and prevent potential engine damage.


Although not part of the engine itself, maintaining your tires is key for overall vehicle performance. Rotate your tires according to your manual’s recommendations to distribute wear evenly and maximize their lifespan. Proper tire maintenance ensures better fuel efficiency and safer driving conditions.


Maintaining your car’s battery and engine helps ensure a smooth, reliable driving experience, so be sure to keep these tasks on your vehicle maintenance checklist to prevent unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

For added peace of mind, make sure you have the right auto insurance coverage. With Mercury, you can find comprehensive and affordable insurance that suits your needs. Looking to save even more? Bundle home and auto insurance to get the best deals. Get your auto insurance quotes online from Mercury today and drive with confidence, knowing you’re protected by one of the most trusted names in insurance.

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Mercury Team

The Mercury Marketing Team is made up of professionals in the fields of Content Creation, Public Relations and Social Media. The team works together to deliver professionally written and researched content to provide information for consumers.

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